Over the last decade or so Mara TK has made a name for himself for having one of the more soulful voices in Aotearoa. Having played with the likes of Troy Kingi, Avantdale Bowling Club, and fronting electro-soul trio Electric Wire Hustle, TK made the decision to branch out on his own. His debut album offering, ‘Bad Meditation’, proves an eclectic mix of psychedelic soul and spacey RnB.
Produced by Mara TK himself and with drummer Cory Champion providing musical direction and support, ‘Bad Medication’ was written and recorded over a five-year period in which TK was on a voyage of self-discovery both musically and spiritually.
After buying a bunch of studio equipment from a friend, TK spent time learning how to operate it. It just happens that the learning process was recording an album. Spiritually, the recording period and process also involved TK reflecting on his Māori heritage and a life of love, loss, and healing.
The death of his koro saw TK embrace his Māoritanga through music, with evidence throughout the album, especially in the songs sung in te reo, most notably the gorgeous waiata Te Kete Aronui and the rather haunting Toroa.
‘Bad Meditation’s’ high points represent some of TK’s best work as a songwriter. Opener and lead single Highly Medicated is a psych soul track in the vein of what he recorded with Troy Kingi on ‘Shake That Skinny Ass All the Way to Zygertron’, while the album’s title track makes good use of the electric sitar provided by Te Kawa Herangi, which TK uses to mirror his vocals.
Diversity is the name of the game here, with TK moving around the soul and RnB canon quite easily from track to track. Grew Up Inna Chaos is downtempo funk featuring 2MY on guest vocals, while Colours is doo- wop-esque in nature, especially with the double-tracked backing vocals.
Then there are the two excellent feature performances. Kenyan singer Xenia Manasseh’s vocal is effortless on the tranquil piano ballad Met At The River, while Troy Kingi plays the role of able sidekick on the jammy Every Hori Is A Star, one of the looser and more uptempo tracks on the album, and a song that features an Aaron Tokona writing credit.
The album’s minimalist production and simple instrumentation really allows TK’s impressive soulful vocals to shine through and dominate the 13 tracks, while the reflective and deeply personal nature of the songs show another depth to his songwriting. If one had questions about TK’s ability to go it alone, outside the realm of a group environment, this album well and truly puts those to bed. He plays the roles of songwriter, singer, instrumentalist, and producer to perfection, making it clear this is well and truly a solo effort.
‘Bad Meditation’ is the start of a new chapter in the musical life of Mara TK, and a chapter that looks well worth following if this first-up effort is anything to go by.